I was raised in the 1970s and 80s by progressive and fairly liberal artsy parents who told me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up — I could “have it all!” as the saying goes. My parents were actively involved in my public school education and, where financially feasible, gave me extracurricular opportunities to fuel my interests in art, science, piano; whatever I was interested in. I became a professional actress at 11 as a hobby, which — at a shockingly quick pace — turned into a career. By 19, with a 5-year run on a hit NBC series under my belt, I went to college to pursue an undergraduate degree in neuroscience with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies. I completed my doctorate in neuroscience in 2007 – with a 2-year-old son and baby #2 on the way.
Based on these facts alone, most people would agree that I have had more than a few lives: I was an actress in television and in films, I went to college and got a doctorate, I am the mother of two young boys (now 2 and 5), I tutor science in our homeschool community, I have recently landed a recurring role on “The Big Bang Theory,” and I am even writing a book about holistic and attachment parenting. So I must “have it all” — right? Wrong.
I have found that the myth of “having it all” is just that: a myth. Indeed, I do a lot of things. But as a mom, my first focus is truly on my kids, even when I am filming or teaching or trying to use the gift certificate for the spa that my husband bought me 9 months ago to help me relax and de-stress (did I mention there need to be six more hours to every day?). Part of my brain is forever my sons’; part of my heart is theirs, too. I have found that “doing it all” better describes my life more than “having it all.” I do a little of this and a little of that; I cook for my family, but not as elaborately as I want to; if I cooked more elaborately, there might not be time to pick up the ocean of trains and miscellaneous action figures that are daily strewn across the living room rug — which I realize has needed a good vacuuming for about a month now running. I write when the boys are asleep, and I often do so with my younger son asleep on my lap. The house is not as clean as it ought to be, but if it were, I wouldn’t have time to brush my teeth or prep for teaching. You get the picture: I can’t do it all; if I could I would have it all. So instead I do what I can. And I lower my expectations for what “has” to get done every day and I try to be gentle with myself.
In my fifth year as a parent, I am realizing that my life of “having it all” looks more like this: having pretty much everything never fully experienced or completed in its entirety or to perfection. Not as catchy as “having it all” but that’s just what it is and I am learning to be okay with that. I don’t need it all; I need enough time to keep my family happy and fed and emotionally cared for and rested. The rest will all fall into place: the more elaborate meals; the clean rug, the brushed and flossed teeth…
There is one thing I can not sacrifice, though; there is one thing I must remember to drop everything to do, and that is to be as perfectly imperfect as I can be as my boys’ mama. I may not get it right all of the time, but when someone needs loving or attention or a snack, I must stop the four other things I was halfway done trying to do. It is then that I get to do one thing — being a mama — as well as I can.
And when I am being hugged by little chubby hands that are covered in sand from yesterday’s beach bag that I only half-emptied and what I hope is today’s tomato sauce, I know that in fact I can have it all, all at once; if all I seek to have is the love and devotion of my children.